Dr. Fransha’ Anderson

by Terry Watson | January 19th, 2021
Dr. Fransha’ Anderson (Photos by Dr. Fransha’ Anderson)

Dr. Fransha’ Anderson (Photos by Dr. Fransha’ Anderson)

If there is a situation where something needs to get done, she is the person to call. She is a mother, grandmother, professional woman of faith who has dedicated her life to serving and helping others in her community, the state and throughout the country. Her life is built around social activism.

Dr. FranSha’’ Anderson of Little Rock, AR was born and raised in Batesville, which is the oldest existing city in the state of Arkansas. She learned the importance of being a servant and helping others at an early age. Though her biological father died when she was the age of four, she was raised by her mother Ella, and stepfather, the late Cleveland Barnett.

Dr. Anderson and her family are members of St. Mark Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas under the leadership of Dr. Phillip Pointer Sr. where she serves as a Kingdom Kids children’s church teacher, and involved in both the outreach and deaf ministry.

For the past 22 years, Little Rock has been home for Dr. Anderson. Relocating to Little Rock was necessary for her daughters to receive the education that they needed to thrive as children with hearing loss. They became students at the only deaf school in the state; Arkansas School for the Deaf (ASD). Today, she is the caregiver for her adult daughter with a developmental disability, and to her mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Raising her two daughters, who are both individuals that are hard of hearing with the eldest also having a developmental disability, provided the platform to not only be their advocate, but also provide the energy to advocate and help other individuals with disabilities. “When you walk in excellence and treat people the way you want to be treated, you don’t ask the Lord to lighten the load, you ask Him to give you a strong back to carry the load with a pure heart. When my daughters were young, there were not a lot of resources for individuals who were deaf, let alone those with developmental disabilities. I had to dig and ask questions. If I didn’t ask or pry, I was not provided the information,” she stated.

Today her daughters are adults and life has changed in a lot of ways for Dr. Anderson. “I started over raising children at 48 years old. Almost seven years ago in July 2014, Dr. Anderson received a phone call from a cousin who had fallen on hard times and needed someone to step up to foster her very young children. This cousin did not have too many family members to ask. “I did not say let me think about it, I ask “what do I need to do?” said Dr. Anderson. Her cousin provided her information as to who to contact at the local Department of Human Services office (DHS). Not once in her life had she ever thought about fostering, let alone adopting children. On August 8th, 2014 a bouncy baby boy who was 4 months old and a beautiful little girl who was 2 arrived at the Anderson home. It is then that the journey to the Little Rock School district began. Her son Chas who is now 6 is in the 1st grade and her daughter Chloe who is 9 is in the 3rd grade.

“I am now 54 and had it not been for my faith in God, I couldn’t have done it. My past does not dictate my future; however, it has given me a sense of urgency to do better. Raising my now adult daughters and raising my precious new additions to the family provides such joy. Blessings do come through the strangest situations. When I was born, God knew what I would become. Although my path had detours at times, I always found my way back on track because God never left me. Putting God first in my family, my career and all my relationships, has provided me a sturdy foundation to withstand any storm,” Anderson stated.

Her extensive background in disability services, including experiences in advocacy, training, policy research and interpretation has afforded the opportunity to be a strong pillar in the community providing outreach and education to individuals with disabilities and the aging population in Arkansas. She is also fluent in American Sign Language with it being the language of her adult daughters.

Dr. Anderson graduated from Batesville High School in 1984, and later graduated Summa Cum laude from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a bachelor’s degree in education. She received her MBA from Harding University. She is an ordained licensed minister and has a doctorate in Divinity. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Education with an emphasis in Organization and Leadership.

Currently Dr. Anderson is the Executive Director for the Arkansas State Independent Living Council (Arkansas SILC). Her tenure began in 2012. She is the first African American to serve as the Executive Director of the Arkansas SILC in its twenty-six years of existence. “We exist so that our state can receive certain funding,” said Anderson.

She was the lead author for the State Plan for Independent Living for Arkansas just last year. The three year approved plan was 1 of only 6 that received full approval in September 2020 from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Community Living’s Office of Independent Living Programs. The other forty nine (49) states received a provisional approval of their plans that was due by December 31, 2020.

“The State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL) is the blue print for independent living services in Arkansas. I’m very proud to be on the team to make a difference in Arkansas for individuals with disabilities”, said Anderson.

Dr. Anderson shares that she is most thankful for her mentor and friend, Wanda Hamilton who was part of the interview team when she was hired at the Arkansas SILC. Ms. Hamilton is now an Emeritus board member of the SILC. Dr. Anderson stated that Hamilton has provided a lot of guidance to her. She described Ms. Hamilton as a walking encyclopedia when it comes to history in the Little Rock area.

Dr. Anderson is also thankful to Annie McDaniel Abrams. “I’ve sat on her couch a few times over the years to listen and receive guidance related to leading an organization.”

Dr. Anderson stated that being the Marketing Director and Co-Director of Corporate Compliance at Pathfinder before becoming the Executive Director at the Arkansas SILC, helped lay a foundation and develop relationships that have been lasting. Under the leadership of the late Mike McCreight, she spearheaded the 40th anniversary celebration for Pathfinder in 2011. Events were held across the state at different Pathfinder facilities and the grand finale was held at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and netted over $30,000. The funds raised from the event enabled Pathfinder to break ground on an accessible playground for the preschool located in Jacksonville, AR. The relationships that were established back then have helped Dr. Anderson continue to be a mover and a shaker in the community. “Some of those same people and business relationships established then, supported me when I recently ran for the Little Rock School Board in 2020. On November 3, general election day, I received 40% percent of the vote between 4 candidates, but did not prevail in the runoff on December 1st,” she says.

Though she wasn’t elected to the school board, Dr. Anderson said she will continue to advocate for better education for students and increasing teachers’ salaries so that the district can recruit and retain the “best of the best” teachers. Having children in the Little Rock School district keeps Dr. Anderson very busy as a parent and student advocate. Anderson is also the grandmother of two grandsons who will transition to the LRSD in the near future.

Dr. Anderson is also an Adjunct Professor for Webster University where she teaches Human Resources Management and MBA courses. She has an extensive background in servant leadership which includes her passion for disability services, non-profit management, human resources management just to name a few. She is certified in Human Resource Management, and Marketing and Executive Leadership. Her Non-Profit Management experience in government affairs includes substantial knowledge in charitable giving related to financial viability and sustainability. She has provided a solid foundation in transparency related to the vision of the Arkansas SILC in which she oversees and the constituents that are served.

Dr. Anderson is most proud of spearheading and leading the “Day at the Capitol” for individuals with disabilities that started in 2013. It continues to be a highlight for individuals to learn about the political process and know their voting rights. Dr. Anderson led the first Youth Caucus event held at the state Capitol. High Schools including, J.A. Fair, Hall High School, McClellan, Arkansas School for the Deaf and Arkansas School for the Blind have participated in mock elections using real voting machines.

The SILC’s day at the State Capitol has become extremely popular. It is the largest grass roots event held in the state of Arkansas for people with disabilities. Special guest speakers have been former Governor Mike Beebe, 2015 Mrs. Arkansas International Adrian Smith, Governor Asa Hutchinson, Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, legislators, and many self-advocates. Ms. Wheelchair Arkansas has also been a guest speaker for the SILC. Due to the pandemic, it was held virtually with special guest U.S. Senator John Boozman. “Although the pandemic caused things to shift, we have been innovative and creative in our ways to advocate and bring about awareness for independent living,” Dr. Anderson says.

A variety of topics have been presented at the “Day at the Capitol”. From equal access, transportation, housing, voting rights and racism, there is no limit to empowering individuals with disabilities.

Dr. Anderson and the Arkansas State Independent Living Council (ARSILC) received a Congressional Record of Honor from U.S. Senator John Boozman for their efforts in promoting and celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) thirtieth anniversary which took place in July 2020.

The Arkansas SILC Board of Directors are very pleased with the work that Anderson is doing. From signature events to the day to day operations of the SILC that include financial accountability and transparency, Dr. Anderson works tirelessly to establish relationships with other grass roots organizations, private businesses, HBCU’s, universities, schools districts, residential facilities and individuals to promote independent living for all individuals in Arkansas living with a disability. In 2018, she hosted the second Circle of Service award recognition ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion. It was a luncheon that could only seat 210. There were 197 people in attendance for the event. The Governor and First Lady greeted the guest as the entered in. Governor Asa Hutchinson was also the lunch speaker. The event not only recognized individuals for their work to break down barriers the block people with disabilities from being independent but it recognizes those that are self-advocates and who don’t mind speaking up for their own rights and the rights of others living with a disability. Dr. Anderson’s work speaks volume in the community. The funds raised from that event helped to send two self-advocates and their caregivers to Washington D.C. to represent Arkansas at the National conference that year. Dr. Anderson and the board are planning a virtual Circle of Service event that will take place later in 2021.

When asked what she loves most about what she does, Dr. Anderson states it’s the chance to help people live productive lives. From educating and promoting independent living for individuals with disabilities at SILC, to providing a foundation for her students at Webster to be the next business owners or CEO’s. “My most enjoyable time and part of my job is having the events at the capitol. Seeing the smiles and the joy that come from all the individuals with disabilities and their families that participate in these events gives me a warm feeling inside,” she says. There have been times that she personally made sacrifices for others to succeed. “In the end, I know that it is not for my glory, but for His glory.”

One might ask where she finds the energy and drive to do what she does, yet Dr. Anderson appears to be only getting started. “If there is no test, there is no testimony. My mother’s cancer journey, fostering and adopting my newest family members, having two children born deaf and one with developmental disabilities is my testimony. I am victorious because of my faith and my service to others. I believe in treating others the way that I want to be treated. My inspiration and motivation come from the fact of being a servant leader. Having a family who supports me and loves me is an important factor. When I am gone, I want people to remember me by the acts of kindness and the things that I did to help. I am very motivated when someone calls the office, and we can provide them with a resource or information that they had no clue existed.”

Dr. Anderson is very active professionally in various organizations, boards and councils. She is a member of Central Arkansas Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated serving as the Social Action Chairperson, President of Little Rock Metro Area Branch of National Association of University Women, member of the TSA Disability and Medical Condition Coalition, member of Little Rock NAACP, National Council on Negro Women, Arkansas PTA, Tri-Chairperson of the National Council on Independent Living Civic Engagement and Voting Rights Committee and National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Board of Directors Region 6 Representative just to name a few.

As the future unfolds, one thing for sure is that Dr. Anderson will be actively involved in her community and serving others. “I’ve been protected against many things because of my faith in the Lord. Every relationship has a reason. The bridges I have crossed are still standing. Now there may be a few individuals that think otherwise only because they wanted something that was given to me by the Lord. You cannot expect to be successful or accomplish something that is not done under the covenant of God,” she stated.

If you know Dr. FranSha Anderson, you know a champion. You know someone who loves the Lord, her family, her profession. You know someone who will give you her last. You know someone who truly emulates advocacy for the people. Her setbacks became her comebacks. Dr. Anderson is truly the epitome of what a servant leader looks like.
Dr. FranSha’ Anderson is available to speak at any event or facilitate any workshop pertaining to independent living in the state of Arkansas.

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